MacArthur Fellows Program

MacArthur Fellows / Meet the Class of December 1981

Cormac McCarthy


El Paso, Texas

Age: 48 at time of award

Published December 1, 1981

Cormac McCarthy is a writer of distinctively American fiction in the southern gothic and epic western traditions. 

McCarthy is a prose stylist of poetic intensity recognized for his complex use of vocabulary.  His writing is characterized by detailed descriptions of figures, places, and actions observed from the outside.  His works are invested with a profound sense of mood, enhanced by his keen awareness of regional behavior and dialogue.  He frequently chronicles personality at odds with society, his characters driven by instinct over thought or emotion. 

McCarthy’s books include The Orchard Keeper (1965), Outer Dark (1968), Child of God (1974), Suttree (1979), and Blood Meridian (1985).  His three novels known as the “Border Trilogy,” All the Pretty Horses (1992), which was adapted for the film (2000), The Crossing (1994), and Cities of the Plain (1998), are an elegy for the American frontier, chronicling the lives of two young men coming of age in the Southwest and Mexico.  He also wrote a screenplay for PBS television, The Gardener’s Son (1975), and a play, The Stonemason (1994), a tragedy that explores the fortunes of three generations of a black family in Kentucky.  His most recent book is No Country for Old Men (2005). 

McCarthy attended the University of Tennessee (1951-52 and 1957-59).

Last updated January 1, 2005.

What's New

"The Kekulé Problem"

Cormac McCarthy , 1981 MacArthur Fellow
Read More

“The Road Through Hell, Paved With Desperation”

The New York Times
Cormac McCarthy , 1981 MacArthur Fellow
Read More